Big news in the West Coast cheese world...Cypress Grove Chevre of Arcata, California has been purchased by Emmi, a large multi-national dairy company based in Switzerland. You probably know Cypress Grove for their Humboldt Fog cheese, among other perennial favorites. Emmi also owns Wisconsin based cheese company Roth Kase. According to news reports, Emmi representatives say they plan to continue production in Humboldt County as well as upgrade Cypress Grove's operations base there. Mary Keehn started Cypress Grove in the early 1980s, and is considered one of the founders of the modern artisan cheese industry. Along with Northern Californians Jennifer Bice of Redwood Hill Farm and Laura Chenel, she helped put artisan cheesemaking on the map with her small family goat dairy, drawing attention to the craft back when it was not nearly as trendy as it is today. And unlike many other dairies and cheesemakers that have gone by the wayside, Cypress Grove, Redwood Hill and Laura Chenel have all grown and prospered.
The sale is not unprecedented: back in 2006, industry pioneer Laura Chenel sold her goat cheese operation to a French company. I think this sale signals the impending maturation of the artisan cheese industry and I don't doubt that we'll see other sales, mergers and consolidations in the next decade. But will this mean more, better cheese for all of us, or the decline of the small artisan producer? Only time will tell.
See more info and press release in this article.